Tickets to Notre Dame/Alabama game a special Christmas gift

I had planned to go to Ireland this Christmas as we always do after spending Christmas Day with my wife's folks and New Year's with mine but we got poleaxed by a nasty flu.

How nasty? Here we are spending it at home in New York surrounded by medication, antibiotics, heating blankets and every other healing remedy from hot whiskies to Advil, not to mention assorted curses and holy water deliveries by worried relatives.

We're fine, but Christmas Day was a blur. I felt as weak as a kitten and as useful as one too. The thought of flying to Ireland in that condition filled me with dread.

My sick daughter went to the pediatrician with my wife who was feeling fine at the time. The pediatrician gave my wife antibiotics too, predicting accurately she would get it next.

"It's highly contagious" she informed her.

Boy was she right. Within 24 hours we were all slammed,

So no Irish Christmas this year, no race days at Leopardstown, long family dinners and far too much Irish trifle and chocolates, not to mention a lovely stay at the Merrion Hotel for my money best in Ireland indeed the world.

The week between Christmas and New Year's day is great there. No one goes to work, the roads are clear and goodwill exists everywhere. It’s the Irish at their best.

But it’s not too bad here in New York now that I am feeling a little better. The bright mornings are wonderful, the long day allows a chance to read and catch up on books.

I'm currently finishing ‘The Patriarch,' a powerful biography of Joe Kennedy Senior whose family has been such a presence in American life. It is a monster, over 700 pages, but made for a lazy Christmas read. Next up is Salmon Rushdie's memoir ‘Joseph Anton’ about his life on the run after Satanic Verses.

What’s keeping me going is the two tickets for the Notre Dame/Alabama game that arrived as a very special Christmas gift from a wonderful friend after I had pretty much given up hope.

My in-law Pat Egan and I will be jetting down to Florida a week from today. Sunshine, BCS Bowl!

As long as I can breathe I’ll be in Dolphins Stadium on Monday the 7th to cheer the Fighting Irish on.

I was there in Dublin for the first game this season along with the Don Keough/Martin Naughton Irish Institute gang and if you told me I’d be going to the BCS game against Alabama a few months later I’d have had you certified.

But the Fighting Irish college football champions? Now that’s a thought to  banish the blues!